Tag Archives: Fairies

Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, start all over again!

From the day of the premiere of Merce last July, people have been asking when season 2 was coming out. The nerve! We’d barely put the show out, with all the creativity, guts and sweat that producing a musical comedy web series takes, and people were already demanding more. I guess that’s a good thing, right? I mean, better than the opposite, for sure. But Mama might say, Shoot, son! I went ‘n’ fixed you up a squirrel mousse pie, which you devoured like a li’l piglet, and now yer askin’ fer another!”

You know Mama's squirrel mousse pie is award winnin'!

You know Mama’s squirrel mousse pie is award winnin’!

When my producing partner Tyne Firmin and I started this Merce adventure, we had no idea what was in store or how we’d get the show even done. We were innocent in all things web series. Since then, we’ve not only produced an amazing show, but we were written up in a lot of publications, official selections in the Brooklyn Web Fest and the Austin Web Fest, and licensed for OUTtv in Europe. AND we’re in negotiations to have Merce licensed on a new LGBTQ app here in the states called REVRY. All amazing stuff.

When it came time to write the new season, I had a bit of writer’s block.  The truth is, I wasn’t sure where to take Merce next.  Dorothy Parker once wrote that “writing is the art of putting the ass to the seat,” but my ass wasn’t feeling it. 

Somewhere around February or March, my friend Cathy was in town, and we were at my favorite Chinese place, the Szechuan Gourmet on 39th Street, eating potstickers. We were talking about HIV, since she works in the medical field, and she brought up a cure.

A cure for HIV. Hard to admit, but the notion never even occurred to me. At least, not in a realistic way. I mean, Charlie Sheen may be cured with his Mexican goat milk injections, but no sane person’s buying it. As a person living with HIV, I’ve just gotten used to the fact that I’ll be on meds the rest of my life with what is now (miraculously) a chronic, manageable condition. The concept that I may some day be free of the virus is not an idea I’ve even entertained. Isn’t that awful? And sad? And that’s when I realized: a cure for AIDS/HIV is exactly the inspiration for Merce in season 2! Now, I’m not going to give away any plot points, but that idea is what got me writing, and we have scripts for 8 new fabulous episodes! Thanks, Cathy!

We’re also going to tackle such topics in season 2 as secondary conditions to HIV, serodiscordant relationships, PrEP, slut shaming, and gay marriage. It’s gonna be chock full, I tell ya! And a lot of favorite characters will be back for season 2, including (of course) Mama, Corvette, Remington, and the Fairies! And new characters, Merce’s Aunt Bless, Cousin Todd (the whore), and many more surprises along the way.

But life is not all rosey. It’s with a heavy heart that I tell you that composer/lyricist Kenny Kruper has parted ways with us for season 2. Sad news indeed. No hard feelings; we simply had some creative differences. We are totally grateful for the amazing work he did for season 1. Truly, Merce would not have had the magic and shine that is has without Kenny’s creativity, humor, hard work and fantastic skill. He will always be a valued member of our Merce family. Much love and luck to you, Kenny!

But when God closes a door…

We are happy to tell you that the amazing Rob Hartmann is coming on board as our new composer/lyricist. Rob is a super-creative, funny, sophisticated composer/lyricist, and someone that we were interested in working with for season 1. He was unavailable at the time, because he was moving to London (like ya do). He’s still there, but settled, and is happily joining our team from across the pond. Right now he’s teaching at the Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts (fancy), so we’ll be doing all the collaborating via internet and cell phone (we’re so modern, yo). You can find out more about Rob on his website: www.robhartmann.com. Welcome, Rob!

Rob Hartman and Charles

I was recently in Washington DC on some HIV advocacy business for the CDC (I’m fancy too), and Rob Hartmann happened to be in town at the same time–Miracle!

Our timeline for season 2 (tentatively) is to raise funds this summer, go into pre-production and rehearsals in August, record the music and solidify the team in September, and shoot in October. We’ll edit through the winter, and hopefully have a premiere in spring of 2017.

New logo with a subtle but important change.

New logo with a subtle but important change. (Thanks to Walter Harper for his design work!)

One last thing: we’ve changed the tag line for season 2. The former tag line, “Life can be positive even when you’re positive,” is good, but something about it was starting to bug me: the “even.” Sounds like an apology, and there’s nothing to apologize for. So, The new tag line is

“Life can be positive when you’re positive!”

Onward we go. Fresh squirrel pie not quite in the oven yet, but we do have a new recipe.
Besos,
Charles
P.S. We recently produced a short, fun video that we sent out to all our season 1 donors.
You can check it out here.  (Thanks to Rich Aronovich and Lucas Van Engen for helping us create the vid!)
P.P.S. I recently had an article about LGBTQ Pride published in the Huffington Post. It’s called I’ve Got My Pride, and if you missed it, please check that out, too.

Feeling Topsy-Turvy

Things is crazy in my world right now, y’all. Upside down, inside out and round and round.

I’m fitfully sleeping about 5 or 6 hours per night, when normally I’m a hard snorin’, solid 7 or 8 hour boy. I’m totally a coffee dude, but lately I’ve taken to having a civilized cup of decaffeinated Lady Grey Tea in the evenings. Yes, I said Lady Grey. I feel a little like I’m in a fog all the time. I’ve lost a little weight, too. It’s all due to mourning my Father’s death. Turns out, grief is a great diet (better than TrimSpa, baby!), but I don’t recommend it.

Merce in a pensive moment.

Merce in a pensive moment.

Don’t worry, Mom. I’m eating, I’m just not craving burgers, french fries, pizza, brownies, buttercream and the like. Basically, I’m not eating anything delicious. Nothing sounds good, so I’m basically eating chicken and veggies. Salad. Yogurt. Fruit. Tragic, right?

The grief’s also kicked up emotions around other losses in my life– my pitiful career; the comedy of errors that’s been my love life; the black molly fishies who started eating each other in my fish tank when I was 10. They were eating each other! It was horrifying. All of it has made me feel helpless, hopeless and useless. It’s awful.

And it’s colored how I’ve been feeling about Merce. It seems like we’re never going to get the show out. It’s never going to be done. And what’s the use, anyway? Who the fuck cares?

But we’ve made a commitment, and must see it through. There are other people involved, donors, cast, crew, a few fans all wanting to see the show. So I take a deep breath, and shoulder on.

It’s been making me crazy how long the editing has been taking. After consulting with our consultant, the ever-patient Tyne Firmin and I decided to have a come-to-Jesus meeting with editor Johnny Coughlin about the state of the editing and the fact that we didn’t have an ending to the project in sight. Tyne and I strategized about the best possible way to have the conversation, coming up with plans A, B, and C, trying to figure out the best ways to approach Johnny, valuing as we do his talent and time, but being firm on the need to have a deadline. Producer problem solving.

What the magic of editing can do: Mama (Tyne Firmin) Skyping to Merce.

What the magic of editing can do: Mama (Tyne Firmin) Skyping with Merce.

We had a meeting of the three of us, and when Tyne and I approached the topic and told Johnny that we were unhappy with the timing of things and needed to implement an editing schedule, he without hesitation agreed. AGREED! And when I pulled out the schedule I’d already made up (sometimes I’m sneaky), he said it looked totally reasonable for him and the other two editors he’s brought on to the project to adhere to. The meeting was shockingly un-dramatic. Sometimes when you have a come-to-Jesus meeting, Jesus shows up first. 

Fabulous Amanda Bruton as the bumbling Veda Masters

Fabulous Amanda Bruton as the bumbling Veda Masters

We have about 98% of Episode 1 completed, and have 2 other episodes at about 85% completion. And guess what? They’re totally fresh, exciting and AMAZING. Kenny Kruper, who we were already in love with from the songs he’s composed, added scoring to Ep. 1 that is perfect! Amanda Bruton is hilarious and heroic as Mistress Veda/Veda Masters. Ed Davis as Ms. Nutella Spread is so freakin’ glamorous and smashing, you won’t believe it. And the rest of the cast! Corvette, the Joes, my darling Fairies! Oh! It’s all being brought to life by Johnny and his team of Max Nitch and Billy Coughlin (Johnny’s bro), under Tyne’s guidance, putting everything together with such care, humor, and panache, getting every silly joke just right. It’s really wonderful, and makes me cry to think of how fabulous the whole show is going to be.

Ed Davis as Ms. Nutella Spread with my fairies (Rob Laqui, Alex Tomas and Sean Griffin)

Ed Davis as Ms. Nutella Spread with my fairies (Rob Laqui, Alex Tomas and Sean Griffin)

Our schedule right now has us finishing editing by mid-June. Hopefully before that, we’ll be able to figure out a marketing plan and decide on a release date.

As for my grief, well, the turvy’s not so easily re-topsy’d. I’ve never grieved anyone like this before, and it’s hard. My Dad was an amazing man with a great sense of humor, and a huge heart. I’m in therapy, attending a grieving group, even using crystals.  (Natures jewelry, darling, and they have powers!)

Merce has been helping. Every naughty, bawdy episode has a message of hope, joy, love, and believing in yourself. Turns out, Merce is a very positive influence on me. 

And I’m starting to feel a tad bit better. Who knows? I may even have a burger this weekend.

Besos,

Charles

P.S.  I was on the Laff Tracks Radio Show on Feb. 28, hosted by the fabulous Joanna Briley and the hilarious Steve C. King. If you missed it, you can watch the recorded stream here (with a few commercials): http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/59368068, or listen to the podcast at http://floempireradio.com/lafftrackspodcast/. I’m on for about a half hour starting at around 34-ish minutes in. I talk about Merce, HIV, life, love, sex even! Oh, and burritos. Check it out!

Fairies Take Over!

The cast of Merce is truly extraordinary: gifted performers, generous and funny and terrific, one and all.

Fairy Fierceness!

Fairy Fierceness!

 

But I must admit, my favorites are the boys who came on board as the Fairies: Sean Griffin, Rob Laqui and Alexander Tomas. They were so much fun to be around and work with, and their performances are inspiring. They’re taking over this blog to let you know their experience in being a part of the show. Apparently, Merce is pretty gay. Who knew?

The Blue Fairy: Sean Griffin

Sporty Sean Griffin

Sporty Sean Griffin

“Merce is the gayest project I have ever worked on. There were more crude sex jokes than at a gynecologist appointment with Joan Rivers, more mid-drifts than a Britney Spears music video, and more homosexuals than the Republican National Convention! In the beginning, we all knew that it was going to be fabulous. What we didn’t know is just how fab we would have to be. By the time I was bending over in front of a camera, tied up in blue rope and shaking my Spanx-laden tush, were going Homo Level 5, and there was no turning back. 

“I say ‘gay’ with the utmost respect. For me, it meant that I was surrounded by people who knew themselves and weren’t afraid to make jokes at their own (and others’) expense. The amount of sequins, glitter, make-up and pompoms kept any pretense of subtlety at bay, allowing the entire cast and crew to just let go and have a ridiculously fun time!

“In a way, that’s what Merce is all about. It’s about accepting the cards you’re dealt and not letting it hold you back. Everyone I worked with–from rehearsals to production–gave this project their all. They didn’t hold back. They pushed forward, not letting any constraints get in the way of what we were there to do–create a damn good show. We went from being fabulous to being truly fierce. Tyra would be proud!

“I hope you all have as much fun watching the show as we had making it. As for me, and the other Fairies, we will remember this project for the rest of our lives.

“Well, until we get cast in the next Broadway revival of La Cage.”

The Green Fairy: Rob Laqui

Rob Laqui with pompoms. I think he took those home!

Rob Laqui with pompoms. I think he took those home!

“Being a fairy in NYC is as common as gays in Chelsea, so imagine the competition when Merce sent out the call for three special Fairy Folk. Booked it! (Don’t ask about the special callback – hint: it’s on the internet.)

“Anyway, being a Merce Fairy has its challenges, but one can always count on having a good time. Or at least solid craft service.  Heck, a Fairy has got to eat right?

“I have learned that despite the common nature of the Fairy in NYC, being a Merce Fairy takes a unique spirit. Supporting Merce and encouraging him through his trials and tribulations takes a Fairy of strong Fairy Fiber with a special dash of Fairy Fierceness–and yes, all that ‘f’ alliteration is necessary. Over the last few months, we MFs (Merce Fairies) have become a family of MFs with a single-minded mission; Helping Merce find LOVE. Now you may think this refers only to a boyfriend, but it’s actually about Merce finding self love.

“I mean loving oneself in the emotional way, you pervs! Get your minds out of the gutters. Sheesh.”

The Red Fairy: Alexander Tomas

Alex Tomas being butchy.

Alex Tomas being butchy.

“Let’s just say, it wasn’t the first time I’ve been asked to be a Fairy, and I guarantee it won’t be the last. That being said, if I had to choose one word to sum up my entire experience working on Merce, I can honestly say, with the utmost certainty, that that word would be…yep, you guessed it, GAY! Working on Merce, both on and off camera, was by far one of the GAYEST experiences of my entire career. And I mean GAY in every sense of the word: from the costumes, to the music, to the sets, to the rehearsal process, to the shooting process, and of course, to my darling cast mates, especially my Fairy biatches – Love you boys. Shit, who am I kiddin’? LOVE YOU GIRLS!

“The whole thing was one big gay circus, fairy dust and all. And just when you thought things couldn’t possibly get any gayer, by the jittering jaw of Liza Minelli, it did…and I loved every second of it. Of course there were moments when disagreements came to the surface on set, as is expected when you have a gaggle of gays with strong views on how things should get done, not to mention larger than life personalities. However, we made it through and managed to create something that I believe is quite unique and pretty damn fabulous.

“My eternal gratitude goes out to Charles and Tyne for giving me the opportunity to, well, pretty much play myself. I really do hope everyone has as much fun watching Merce as we did bringing it to life.

“Seriously, it was the gayest thing ever.”

Je vous adore, mes belles, Fairies fous.

Besos,

Charles